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Virginia Conservation Police Notebook

February 20 – March 26, 2019

To increase awareness of Conservation Police Officers (CPO’s-previously called game wardens) activities, the “Virginia Conservation Police Notebook” provides an overview of activities encountered by our officers who protect natural resources and people pursuing outdoor recreation in the fields, woods and waters of Virginia. These reports are prepared from the officer’s field notes by Kim McCarthy, Executive Assistant to Major Scott Naff [Operations] and Major Bryan Young [Administration] of the Law Enforcement Division of DGIF. These CPO reports show the value of concerned citizens, landowners and true sportsmen in providing tips to law enforcement officers on suspected violations by lawbreakers who give other outdoor enthusiasts an undeserved bad reputation.

Region I – Tidewater

CPOs Present Certificate and Challenge Coin – On February 13, 2019, Senior CPO Greg Hall and Sergeant Paul Atkins attended the Mattaponi Crime Solvers meeting in King William County. During the meeting the officers were provided the opportunity to present the Office of Professional Standards certificate and Protector Challenge Coin to Mr. David Straughan Robinson III of King William County for his support to the local CPO’s and the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Mr. Robinson’s wife and father were present as well as the King & Queen Commonwealth’s Attorney, the King William Sheriff and other members of the public involved with the Mattaponi Crime Solvers.

Youth Rabbit Hunt – On Feb. 19, 2019 Sgt. Frank Spuchesi hosted a youth rabbit hunt for the King George Middle School outdoor club. Mark Fike, DGIF volunteer hunter education instructor and Outdoor Club Leader, chose 5 hunters from the club.  Fike has been mentoring the young hunters over the past couple months, instructing hunter education and having live fire sessions to insure that all hunters were safety conscious and proficient at hitting their target.  In total, 11 rabbits were harvested with all participants getting shots and almost all bagging a bunny.

Charges Placed in February 2019 for a Bait Case Started in October 2018 – On October 25, 2018, CPO Cameron Dobyns was on foot patrol checking an area for hunting activity in Essex County when he came across a location baited with a hanging feeder that had corn in it and corn on the ground. Pictures and evidence were collected. After waterfowl season ended in January 2019, Dobyns returned to his investigation of the bait. Using his computer he looked up the landowner and went to the residence on February 22, 2019. No one answered the door so he used GoOutdoors to obtain a phone number and called the landowner, who answered. Dobyns obtained information on who had been given permission to hunt the property. After Dobyns left the residence he was at an intersection and observed a pickup truck with an ATV on a trailer pass by him. Dobyns recognized the specially modified ATV from his photographs that had been taken. He turned around and headed back toward the landowner’s house where he located the pickup and ATV. He identified the suspect and questioned him regarding the baiting activity. The suspect confessed to placing the feeder out and using the corn. He also confessed to muzzleloader hunting near the baited area. Magistrate summonses were later obtained for the appropriate charges and served.

Region II – Southside

Assisting Disabled Motorist Leads to Marijuana Charges – On February 10, 2019, CPO Matt Thomas was traveling by a local park in Roanoke County that is popular with trout fishermen.  Upon approaching the parking area he was flagged down by three young males gathered around a white pickup truck.  The driver advised that the truck wouldn’t start and requested a jump.  CPO Thomas recognized the driver as a known repeat game law violator in the area and agreed to assist.  While assisting the men, CPO Thomas detected a strong odor of marijuana emanating from the passenger side of the vehicle.  Upon getting the vehicle started, CPO Thomas advised the men that they were not free to leave and questioned them about the marijuana.  The driver admitted to having smoked a joint earlier in the morning but claimed there were no more drugs in the vehicle. CPO Thomas conducted a search of the individuals and the vehicle and located some plant residue in the passenger floorboard and a dip can half full of marijuana in the center console.  Marijuana possession charges were placed on the driver of the vehicle.

Social Media Follow-up Leads to Multiple Charges – Officer Leslie Wright was conducting follow-up interviews related to several social media posts made by two brothers in Bedford County.  The brothers had posted photographs of two deer and Officer Wright was unable to locate any check data or record of the subjects having purchased any hunting licenses. Officer Wright was able to make contact with the subjects at their residence, and during the interview, she determined that the brothers had killed a total of 4 deer.  One of the brothers was able to provide a confirmation number for a deer that was checked as a landowner and he also provided a confirmation number for a deer he checked that his brother had killed.  The other two deer were not checked.  Neither brother had purchased a valid hunting license.  Multiple game violations were addressed.

District 24 Taxidermists Inspected – Following the 2018-19 hunting season, District 24 CPO’s Justin Rogers, Nick Sumner, and Kevin Webb, coordinated by Senior CPO Gavin Fariss, conducted inspections of all licensed taxidermists in Amelia, Buckingham, Cumberland, Nottoway, and Prince Edward Counties.  The operation, which involved numerous individual inspections, was successful on multiple levels.  First, it afforded an opportunity for newly permitted taxidermists to meet local CPO’s, ask questions, express concerns, and start their business on a positive note.  Second, it provided District CPO’s a gauge of the level of compliance with 64% of permittees found to be in complete compliance with all permit requirements.  Finally, the remaining 36% of permittees found out of compliance had their violations addressed appropriately to encourage adherence in the future.  In summary, 11 taxidermist inspections were completed, 7 permittees were in compliance, 4 permittees were out of compliance, 6 violations were detected, 3 summonses issued, and 3 warnings issued.

Taxidermy Inspection Leads to Game Violations – CPO Routon and CPO Hale conducted a taxidermist Inspection on February 14, 2019 in Franklin County.  After noticing a set of antlers marked as “Harvested by landowner” without a confirmation number, the Taxidermist was asked to confirm the harvest through his records.  Using the information from the taxidermist’s records, CPO Routon conducted a follow-up interview with the suspect and obtained a confession from the suspect who admitted to failing to check in the 10 point antlered-deer.  Appropriate charges were placed.

Spotlighting on Church Property Creates Community Buzz – On February 13th and February 19th of 2019, judges in Pittsylvania County handed out serious penalties to offenders involved in a spotlighting case that occurred on December 20th, 2018.  CPOs Clawson and Hale responded to an eyewitness report of a deer being spotlighted and shot on the property of a church in Pittsylvania County.  During the course of that investigation, the subjects were identified and a shell casing was recovered from the church parking lot.  Two individuals confessed to spotlighting the deer and shooting it from the roadway with a 12 gauge shotgun.  The driver of the vehicle was ordered to pay over $500 in fines and was sentenced to 10 days of suspended jail time.  The passenger, who fired the shot, was ordered to pay $700 in fines, lost his hunting privileges for 12 months, was given a 6 month driver’s license suspension, and sentenced to 30 days of suspended jail time.  This ruling is spreading throughout the communities and will hopefully assist with deterring future violators.

Traffic Stop Leads to Multiple Game and Underage Possession Charges – On November 17, 2019, CPO Young initiated a traffic stop for reckless driving at 0130 A.M. in Henry County.  CPO Young observed deer blood and hair in the bed of the truck, along with empty shell casings in the driver’s side floor board.  The driver, after arguably denying any accusations, ultimately admitted to shooting a deer illegally in Pittsylvania County a couple days prior with a .22 and later dumping the carcass on the side of the road.  Both subjects in the vehicle were underage and possessed alcohol.  Multiple charges were later placed in Henry and Pittsylvania Counties regarding the offenses.  Both offenders were found guilty.

The 45th Annual Roanoke Boat Show – The Roanoke Boat Show took place from February 22-24th at the Berglund Center in Roanoke City.  The show includes many boat dealers from the Smith Mountain Lake area and other vendors from around the area.  CPO’s Matt Thomas, Leslie Wright, Joe Williams and Michael Morris, from District 22, represented the department during the event.  The officers were available to answer questions and assist the public throughout the very busy event.  Officer Williams also provided the boating safety talk to a class of over 50 students at the boater education class that was held during the boat show. The event was free to the public and attendance was up 10 percent from the previous year.

Search and Rescue Effort – On Sunday, February 24th, CPO’s Joe Williams, Tyler Routon, James Hale, Brett Clawson, Michael Morris and K9 Officer Richard Howald responded to a missing person search in Bedford County. The officers were requested by the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office and were searching for an 83 year old woman, who has Sundowners,  that went missing from her home in Moneta.  Her family called and spoke with her at 8PM Thursday night (2/21).  The next morning they tried to call her at 8AM and she did not answer.  At 11AM, her caretaker arrived to find the front door open, and she was missing even though her keys, purse, and phone were still inside the home.  The officers and search teams searched multiple remote and rugged tracks of land but unfortunately were unable to find any sign of the missing woman.  Officers were able to provide valuable information to the command center to aid in the continuing and ongoing search for the missing woman.

Challenge Coin Shared on Smith Mountain Lake: District 21 and 22 CPOS, along with Sgt. Slaughter, met with Bayside Marina Owner Dale Runyon on February 28, 2019 to present the Protector Challenge Coin from the Office of Professional Standards (O.P.S).  Everyone expressed their gratitude for his dedication of service which ensures both Districts 21 & 22 have operational equipment (patrol boats) to serve the needs of the public on one of the largest territories in the region, a 20,000 acre lake that consist of the counties of Bedford, Franklin and Pittsylvania.

Cast Net in Trout Waters – On Sunday, February 24, 2019, CPO Cory Harbour was patrolling Ivy Creek Park, an urban trout water, in the City of Lynchburg.  From a concealed position, he observed anglers for a couple hours and then addressed multiple violations including: using a cast net in stocked trout waters, fishing without a freshwater license, and 4 fishing without trout licenses.  CPO Harbour was later able to determine that a few people came to the lake prepared to fish but decided not to after a regular fisherman advised them to make sure they had a both a freshwater and a trout fishing license.

Reckless Handling of a Bow and Arrow – Recently CPO John Daniel responded to a call in Amherst County where a mother had found arrows that had landed in her backyard where her children play.  The lady explained that she had found arrows before and knew they could have only been shot from her neighbor’s residence on the other side of the woods.  She knew the neighbors and had spoken with them about the arrows but then called the sheriff’s office when she found more arrows. A deputy had then spoken with them and warned the family not to shoot any arrows in that direction even though it seemed distant. Officer Daniel initiated an investigation and learned that one of the older children had been shooting at buzzards in the top of the trees between the two residences and may have also shot a gun, but he wasn’t going to be home until later that evening.  CPO Andrew Howald followed up on the investigation and interviewed the 18 year old who confirmed that he had shot at the buzzards and other birds or animals on multiple occasions. Officer Howald studied the layout of the area and determined that by aiming at the buzzards in the tops of the trees the trajectory of the arrows was causing them to come down and strike in the neighbors’ back yard within feet of where the children normally play. Officer Howald explained the serious and dangerous nature of the suspect’s actions and the young man broke down and became emotional upon realizing the harm he could have done.  Appropriate charges are pending.

O.P.S. Protector Challenge Coin #27 Presented – On February 27, 2019, CPOs Tyler Blanks, Toby Livermore and Shane Wilson presented Mr. Russel Holland with his O.P.S. Protector Challenge Coin #27 and Certificate of Appreciation. Mr. Holland was selected by several members of the agency for his dedication and support that he has given to the department. Russ was very appreciative of the challenge coin, as he is well aware that there is a great meaning behind each and every challenge coin. He said he will be honored to add this to his collection of awards.

Virginia CPO Finishes at Top of His Class – Veteran CPO Andrew Howald, along with other Virginia CPO’s, and wildlife enforcement officers from around the United States, attended the Spring 2019 IHEA Hunting Incident Investigation Academy in Mayflower, Arkansas last week.  IHEA is the International Hunter Education Association and this academy is designed to train active Wildlife Officers on how to properly investigate hunting related shooting incidents and properly document the facts.  The five day academy covers the following topics: policies, planning an investigation, tools of the investigation, bullet-path reconstruction, evidence kits, ballistics, blood analysis, evidence collection, diagramming, methodology of the hunting investigation, tree-stand falls and scenarios.  The academy continues to grow its list of graduates that exceed one thousand wildlife officers.  These trained wildlife officers return to their agencies and provide localized training, sharing knowledge and techniques necessary to conduct factual and impartial investigations.  Andrew was recognized as the top student in his class and made such an impression on the instructors that they discussed recruiting him to their instructor cadre.  Officer Howald has a reputation as an excellent investigator so his performance was no surprise to his supervision but it is quite an accomplishment considering this is a nationally recognized academy and was attended by his peers from all over the country.

DMV Agents Provide Assistance in Solving Illegal Dumping Case – On February 7, 2019, CPO Routon responded to a trespassing call, which involved a subject pulling onto private property, in a small pick-up truck, dumping 5 Geese into a metal storage container, and then leaving.  Upon reviewing video footage from security cameras, CPO Routon was able to get a description of the vehicle and driver, but was unable to see a license plate.  By working with DMV Law Enforcement Special Investigations, CPO Routon was able to identify the registered owner of the vehicle and obtain the driver’s address.  On February 27, 2019, Sgt. Slaughter located the suspect’s vehicle behind the residence next to a boat with a blind on top of it. CPO Routon and Sgt. Slaughter interviewed the suspect at his residence that night and obtained a confession.  Appropriate charges were placed.

Turkey Poacher Caught With His Tailgate Down – While conducting a taxidermy inspection in District 24, CPO Justin Rogers received information in reference to a subject turkey hunting illegally in Cumberland County.  Utilizing the information, he was able to locate and interview the suspect.  The subject initially denied any wrongdoing, but when faced with the evidence, he conceded.  The subject admitted to using his truck to purposefully run over a turkey in November 2018.  The subject stated he was remorseful for killing the turkey in that manner so he did not bother to clean it.  A witness observed the subject with the turkey in the bed of his pickup so he illegally dumped the carcass to get rid of the evidence.  The subject did not have a valid hunting license or driver’s license when the offenses occurred.  The appropriate charges are pending.

Illegally Taken and Transported Deer Case Finalized – On November 24, 2018, CPO Harbour made a field ID of a hunter that lead to an investigation due to a social media post.  In the post the hunter described a deer that he had harvested while luring the buck with unauthorized deer scents.  The subject was promoting the scents and the success that he had using them to harvest this 8 point buck.  CPO Harbour interviewed the subject and obtained a confession.  The interview uncovered that the subject had caped the deer for a shoulder mount and transported it to Pennsylvania, in direct violation of Pennsylvania’s carcass importation law.  Harbour was able to get assistance from a Pennsylvania Wildlife Officer to investigate the taxidermist that the deer was taken to.  The PA officer located the taxidermist and collected evidence.  During the PA officer’s investigation, he came across multiple PA violations that would need further investigation.  This case was finally brought to a close February 20, 2019, with guilty pleas and penalties including $1000 replacement cost, court cost and fines, and 12 months good behavior.  The PA officer advised he will also be seeking charges for the violations that took place when the deer was brought into Pennsylvania.

District 25 Taxidermists Inspected – Following the 2018-19 hunting season, District 25 CPOs Brandon Harris, Matthew Sandy, Tyler Blanks Toby Livermore, Keith Wilson, Shane Wilson and Nick Belotte conducted inspections of all licensed taxidermists in Charlotte, Lunenburg, Halifax, Mecklenburg and Brunswick Counties.  The operation, which involved numerous individual inspections, was successful on multiple levels.  It afforded an opportunity for newly sworn officers to meet their local taxidermists and those taxidermists to meet local CPOs, ask questions and express concerns.  It also provided District CPO’s a gauge of the level of compliance with 73% of permittees found to be in complete compliance with all permit requirements.  The remaining 27% of permittees found out of compliance had their violations addressed appropriately.  In summary, 15 taxidermist inspections were completed, 11 permittees were in compliance, 4 permittees were out of compliance, and multiple violations were detected resulting in 13 summonses issued.

Persistence and a Good Witness – CPO Andrew Howald initiated an investigation into illegal hunting activity in Amherst County in late December.  A man had pulled into a lady’s driveway and shot at deer in her yard.  Andrew spoke with the lady who explained that she confronted the suspect after he shot and she knew him because he had done some work for her in the past.  She said he seemed like he had been drinking and told her he shot at the deer because she had told him she didn’t like them in her yard; he also had his son with him in the truck.  The lady stated that she would be happy to identify him and testify against him in court.  Officer Howald looked for the suspect, who is a known game violator in that area, but was unable to find him that day.  He continued searching a lengthy period of time but the man was obviously trying to avoid speaking with him, and actually went by a different name from his name of record, further complicating the process.  Another CPO had a chance encounter with the suspect at a convenience store while Andrew was off and inquired about the incident, but the suspect denied everything and told him to have Officer Howald confront him with his evidence.  After that, the suspect avoided Andrew again until he finally caught up with him in late February.  The suspect was very argumentative, dramatic, and theatrical when questioned by Officer Howald in an apparent attempt to intimidate the officer, but made enough comments during his show to confirm the lady’s version of the event.  He challenged Officer Howald to charge him and take him to court and Andrew explained that was exactly what was going to happen and the victim would be there to support his charges.  Several charges are now pending against the suspect.

Region III – Southwest

CPOs Speak to Class at Radford University – On February 19, 2018, CPOs Lee Wensel and Mark Brewer had the privilege to present a program to a wildlife law enforcement class at Radford University. Wensel and Brewer spoke to criminal justice students about the elements that make wildlife law enforcement different from other criminal justice careers. They also explained the special tactics, techniques, and equipment used by CPOs to enforce the hunting, trapping, fishing, and boating laws of the Commonwealth.

“Meet and Greet” – On Saturday, February 23, 2019 Senior CPOs George Shupe, Wes Billings, K9-Josie along with West Virginia DNR Officer Gabe Wood , conducted a “Meet and Great” at Walmart in Bluefield.  The officers handed out hunting, fishing, and boating materials to the public and answered numerous questions addressing concerns from both Virginia, and West Virginia customers. As usual, K9-Josie was a favorite of those meeting her for the first time, especially the younger crowd.

Promoting the Legal Harvesting of Wildlife – On Feb 10, 2019, CPO Jim Anders and CPO Jason Harris assisted Outdoor Education Specialist Jeff Pease and a guest instructor from the Virginia Extension Agency with a Venison Canning Class at the New River Wildlife Club in Grayson County.  Instruction was given on how to remove the “silver” skin, cut, cube, “brown”, and hot pack deer meat into canning jars for pressure canning. Each of the ten participants took part in each step in preparing the deer meat for the canning process. The class also focused on the dangers of home canning and how to enjoy the process safely.  The class was successful at connecting with our constituents and promoting the legal harvesting of wildlife.

Keen Investigative Skills Lead CPO to Suspects – On Sunday, February 3 2019, CPO Matthew Arnold was patrolling Hidden Valley WMA in Washington County when he located a campsite with boxes, grocery bags, beer cans, and various other refuse left behind. Officer Arnold was unable to find any identifying documents within the trash, but made a list of all the items that he found. After contacting several local stores in the area, Officer Arnold found evidence at one of the stores, indicating that someone had purchased all of the items found at the scene, the night before the trash was left. Further investigation of the incident, resulted in identification of a possible suspect vehicle and a license tag number. Officer Arnold visited three known addresses for the suspect vehicle’s owner before contacting CPO David Peake in Bland County about a fourth. Officer Peake was able to locate the vehicle’s owner, and put Officer Arnold in touch with them. The owner claimed it was her daughter and friends who had camped on Hidden Valley that night. Officer Arnold was able to locate the subjects with the information that was given. After interviews with four suspects, Officer Arnold obtained confessions from all four subjects who admitted to drinking and camping on the WMA, as well as leaving the trash as found. Multiple charges have been appropriately placed in the incident.

District 34 O.P.S. Protector Coin Awarded – On March 4, 2019 Virginia CPOs and family members of Jack Van Zant met for a dinner in Jack’s honor at North Fork Catering in Scott County. Jack Van Zant was awarded the District 34 O.P.S. Protector Coin.  Mr. Van Zant has dedicated his life to service of his country, state, and community.  Mr. Van Zant grew up in Scott County, is an avid outdoorsman, and has a passion for fishing and hunting. After graduating from Shoemaker High School, Mr. Van Zant was drafted into the U.S. Army during the Korean Conflict. After concluding his military service, he continued service to his country with a 32 year career with NASA. Mr. Van Zant retired from NASA and returned to Scott County. Mr. Van Zant became very active in VDGIF hunter education program in Scott County.  Mr. Van Zant accrued more than 2500 volunteer hours in 15 years as an instructor. During his time as an instructor Mr. Van Zant also took on the task of assisting with the rewriting the Hunter Education Manual, which was used by thousands of Virginia’s hunters.  During his time as an Instructor, and for several years after, he also coached the Scott County Outdoor Team for the Hunter Education Championships in Appomattox.   Mr. Van Zant was instrumental in organizing and operating the Kids Fishing Day in Scott County. The Kids Fishing Day has been running continuously for 24 years. Mr. Van Zant spends countless hours each year sending letters, soliciting vendors for donations, and organizing volunteers to ensure hundreds of children and their families are exposed to the joys of fishing through the Kids Fishing Day each year.  Mr. Van Zant has always been willing and available to help DGIF and local conservation police officers to provide better opportunities for all sportsmen.  Mr. Van Zant assisted stocking fingerling trout into the mountains of SW Virginia. This entailed carrying thousands of fish in buckets through the mountains to the streams, in addition to helping with normal stockings in Lee, Wise and Scott Counties. Mr. Van Zant has been a pillar in his community and assisted DGIF in several ways throughout the years.  Mr. Van Zant has always been willing to assist local CPOs with information and direction to insure outdoorsmen in his community conducted themselves in an appropriate manner and also to have a fair chance to become successful in the quarry they choose to pursue.   Sportsmen and women of all ages in Scott County and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries have had a valuable resource in Mr. Van Zant for the service to field wildlife conservation and for the hunting and fishing opportunities that have been improved due to Mr. Van Zant’s dedication and service. In addition, Mr. Van Zant at the age of 85 years old obtained his season bag limit of deer this past year harvesting two great Scott County whitetails.

Mr. Van Zant stated that he was truly at a loss for words. He was very thankful and appreciative of this award. Being the humble person Jack is, he stated; “I greatly appreciate all of the accolades, but I want to dedicate this award to all of the people that have helped over the years”.

Natural Science Career Fair – On Tuesday, March 5th, 2019 CPOs Joel Early and Nikita Burke attended the first annual Natural Science Career Fair at Virginia Highlands Community College in Abingdon. Virginia Highlands Community College and Virginia Tech teamed up to bring together a career fair for those who are interested in careers in Conservation and Biology. The officers, along with DGIF Wildlife, Fish and Lands Division personnel spoke with over (50) students at the event.

CPOs Keep Department Owned Facilities Safe – Over a period of roughly six months CPO Boyette utilized cameras to monitor activity on department owned and managed facilities in Carroll County. This was done primarily to address ongoing issues with vandalism and other illegal activities going on at these locations. During this period, the cameras detected numerous violations occurring at boat landings and department parking lots resulting in six individuals being charged with destruction of department property. In the course of investigating these offenses, Officer Boyette also uncovered other hunting and general violations of law for which additional charges were placed. While some of these cases are still pending, several of them have already resulted in fines for the offenders and restitution being paid to DGIF. These efforts are part of ongoing statewide efforts by Conservation Police Officers to keep department-owned facilities safe and enjoyable places for Virginia’s wildlife, fishing, and boating enthusiasts to enjoy!

Boat Landing Patrol Arrest – On March 7, 2019 CPO Boyette was patrolling the New River in Carroll County when he observed a vehicle parked at a department boat landing. He approached the vehicle and found a male sitting in the vehicle not engaged in hunting, fishing, or boating in violation of clearly posted rules. The officer asked the man for an ID and immediately realized that he was a suspect in a littering case the officer was currently working. The man agreed to speak with the officer and soon admitted to throwing out trash on multiple occasions at nearby locations. He also informed Officer Boyette that there were drugs in his vehicle. During a search of the vehicle, marijuana, methamphetamine, and other drug-related items were located and seized. Officer Boyette arrested the man, and transported him to a magistrate where he was charged with several felony and misdemeanor offenses.

Sportsman Banquet Held to Support Virginia’s Sportsmen and Women – On Saturday, March 9th, 2019, CPO Matthew Arnold attended the first Annual Sportsman Banquet hosted at Noah Horn Well Drilling Corporate Offices in Buchanan County. The fundraiser was geared towards Southwest Virginia with the proceeds going to various programs to benefit Virginia’s sportsmen. One of the major topics at the event was Virginia’s Elk Project, which has made Buchanan County a major focus for the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Officer Arnold was invited to speak to over 150 people about how local communities can support and progress hunting, fishing, and sportsmanship in Virginia.

CPOs and K9 Share the Spotlight at Wild Game Dinner – On Saturday, March 23, 2019, Senior CPO James Brooks and members of Trinity Assembly of God Church in Cedar Bluff, hosted a wild game dinner open to the general public with over 75 people in attendance. The menu consisted of moose, elk, quail, mule deer, trout and other wild game. Senior Officer Wes Billings and K-9 Josey conducted a demonstration of their skills providing insight to the capabilities of our K-9 Unit.  CPO Matthew Arnold also displayed a kayak and ATV, and answered many questions related to wildlife, fishing and boating law. The meal was enjoyed by all with a good day of fellowship.

CPO has Positive Personal Interaction at Middle School Outdoor Club Meeting – On Wednesday, March 20, 2019, CPO Matthew Arnold attended Virginia Middle School’s Outdoor Club meeting in Washington County. Officer Arnold spoke to the children and adults about the process to becoming a Virginia Conservation Police Officer and the various activities that an officer is involved in throughout a year in the field. Officer Arnold explained how their club related to DGIF through their various outdoor trips and studies. Multiple questions were fielded by Officer Arnold, allowing for a personable interaction with the young children in attendance.

Region IV – Mountains & Shenandoah Valley and Northern Piedmont

OPS Protector Coin Number 28 Presented – District 42 CPOs presented Bryan McGraw with OPS Protector Coin Number 28.  Mr. McGraw has been an integral part of protecting wildlife in the South Eastern part of Highland County.  He manages the deer herd and fisheries on a 1000 acre farm where he resides, now owned by Virginia Outdoor Foundation (VOF).  Mr. McGraw has been a valuable asset to VDGIF and the law enforcement division’s mission to enforce the hunting and fishing laws of the Commonwealth.

CPOs Participate in Western Virginia Sportsman Show – February 22-24, 2019 Officers from District 42, along with CPO Billhimer and K9 Partner Justice participated in the Annual Western Virginia Sportsman show in Augusta County.  CWF Coordinator Derek Byler, Lee Walker, and numerous volunteers were on hand to represent VDGIF and answer many questions regarding hunting, fishing, trapping, and boating.  With cold wet weather through the valley most of the weekend the show experienced a great turnout.   The Western Virginia Sportsman’s Show is in its 32nd year in the Shenandoah Valley. Vendors from all over the country attend.

Strong Arm Robbery Suspect Stopped and Detained by CPO Until Charlottesville PD Arrives – On March 13, 2019 CPO Inge was traveling on I-64 in Albemarle County when he observed a vehicle that matched a BOL (Be On Lookout) provided by Charlottesville Police Department earlier in the day. The vehicle contained suspects that committed a strong arm robbery where they took a purse from a woman and fled. Officer Inge contacted the local agency and determined that the BOL was still in effect. Officer Inge conducted a traffic stop on the vehicle. After the occupants were detained, the purse from the robbery was in plain view on the floorboard. After the arrival of Charlottesville PD detectives, the suspect was transferred to their custody and taken to the regional jail on robbery charges. Additionally, Officer Inge cited the driver for driving without a license.

Wildfire on WMA.  On Wednesday, March 13, a woodland fire was reported to DGIF dispatch around 2:40 pm. The fire was on the Little North Mountain WMA in District 42, Augusta County. Senior Officer Neil Kester of Augusta and Sgt. Ken Williams of neighboring District 43 responded to the call and were on scene around 3:10. The fire was reported to be at the top of the mountain underneath high tension power lines. The only access to the scene was by an unimproved woods road that was blocked by a large tree. It took three chain saws and thirty minutes to clear the road. Officers Caleb Manspile, Corey Gardner and Luke Fisher, who is trained in woodland firefighting, were on scene along with members of the Churchville and Craigsville Volunteer Fire Departments. Personnel from the Bureau, who are trained in woodland firefighting as well, and also the US Forest Service, arrived to provide assistance. The fire was approximately 3 to 4 acres and took three hours to extinguish.

Volunteers make the 4th Annual Stony Creek & Mill Creek Trout Stream Clean-up Day a Success – On the 3rd Saturday of March 2019 CPOs Owen Heine, Derrick Kekic, Dan Hyman, Mike Corrado and CPO Sgt. Carl Martin joined approximately 70 citizen volunteers for the 4th Annual Trout Stream Clean-Up Day in Shenandoah County.  Volunteers and VDGIF worked together to clean the entire sections of trout stocked waters along Stony Creek and Mill Creek; over 4 miles of stocked trout stream!  Together they collected 1.44 tons of trash from the private properties that make up these two stocked trout streams.  Everything from an old truck bed, old fence, concrete blocks, tires, dirty diapers, bottles/cans, shoes, clothes and general litter were collected and loaded into a dump truck donated by Cabin Hill Homes LLC. The dump truck was driven by Dale Dodson, who has volunteered every year to help load tons of trash, drive the dump truck, and haul the load to the landfill for proper disposal.

The Shenandoah County Landfill waived the tipping fee for this event and provided the total weight of trash collected.  This years’ total was down slightly from the 1.5 tons collected last year and far lower than the 3 tons collected in the first year.  Avid sportswomen Kathy Stout and Wendy DuVal helped organize this event, coordinate with the local newspaper to cover the event and with local businesses to donate food and space to feed the hungry volunteers.

The “Broken Bolt” auto repair shop near Lantz Mill hosted the Boy Scouts again this year and they kept the grill going during the event until the very end.  They were able to provide a hard-earned meal to those CPOs, volunteers, and VDGIF trout stockers who made this happen.   Bill Ryan grilled hot dogs and burgers for hungry volunteers on Mill Creek, as he has done for 4 years in a row!  As this annual event gains in popularity, DGIF continues to add private property sections back into the stocking program with the promise of an annual litter collection and more eyes on these properties to keep them clear from trespassers and litter.  The day ended with a healthy stocking of trout by VDGIF trout truck driver Kenneth Hall and CWF volunteers Bob Stover and Lee Stover.  This trout stocking is one of the few Saturday stockings that is known to the public in advance and is a “Thank You” to all who participated.   This Clean Up will be held next year on the 3rd Saturday of March 2020.

Special Ops

K9 Bailey Assists with Hunting Accident Investigation – On 12/30/18, Officer Hall received a call referencing a hunting accident in Gloucester County. Officers Hall and Nevel responded to the area and began to check the scene.  The witnesses and the victim stated that they had not been hunting that day. They stated that they were walking through the woods, looking for shed antlers, when they heard a shot and one of them was struck with a buck shot pellet.  Officer Hall’s experience told him that the accident did not happen the way the victim and witnesses explained it. Officer Hall contacted Officer Patrillo and requested K9 Bailey’s assistance.  Officer Patrillo responded to the scene and deployed K9 Bailey. After a lengthily search, Bailey did not show any indication of firearms or ammunition in the area. Officer Hall confronted the witnesses with this information and informed them that he did not believe they were being truthful. The witnesses later confessed that they were hunting and had accidently shot a member of their hunting party. The witnesses then took the officers to an entirely different location. Officer Patrillo deployed K9 Bailey at the new location and she quickly located four shotgun shells and four wads.  Armed with the information that Bailey provided, Officer Hall was able to establish the shooter location, the victim location, and the shot path. Appropriate charges are pending.

K9 Bailey Locates Eluding Fisherman – On Feb. 18, 2019, CPO Patrillo was checking bank fishermen along the James River at Falling Creek. While checking a group of fishermen, Officer Patrillo noticed K9 Bailey demonstrating some unusual behavior. K9 Bailey was very interested in a patch of tall grass and bushes located about twenty yards to Officer Patrillo’s right.  K9 Bailey was barking and her hair was standing up, which is not her normal demeanor. Officer Patrillo walked over to the tall grass to investigate and located a male subject lying in the bushes with a fishing rod beside him.  After interviewing the suspect, Officer Patrillo issued a summons for fishing without a license and was grateful to know that K9 Bailey was watching his back.

K9 Sky Locates Attempted Murder Weapon in Indiana – On February 16, 2019, the Martin County, Indiana Sheriff’s Department was involved in a vehicle pursuit followed by a male subject exiting the vehicle and firing multiple shots at the deputies before fleeing on foot into a wooded area. The suspect was arrested later that day but would not give the location of where he had hidden the firearm. Over the next few days the suspect told the deputies he had hidden the firearm in a wooded area under the leaves. On the 20th the suspect took the deputies to a wooded area, where a search was conducted with metal detectors, and moving a lot of leaves and logs by hand with no luck of locating the pistol. On the night of the 20th, into the morning of the 21st ,Indiana CPO K9’s were requested to assist, but due to one handler recovering from back surgery, one canine recovering from knee surgery, and Lead Handler Officer Jeff Milnor leading the canine school, the closest handler was 2 ½ hours away. With Senior K9 Officer Richard Howald and K9 Sky only 30 minutes away, he responded to the search area along with Martin County Deputies, the local Indiana CPO, and the suspect.  K9 Sky was able to work through all of the contamination and after working for 22 minutes was able to locate the pistol, in a pile of leaves, which had been pushed up and checked with a metal detector the day before.

  • March 28, 2019